So here’s another way to categorize people: those who love to grocery shop and those who don’t.
My husband is the latter, but I’m what you call a serial grocery shopper.
It seems like I hit the grocery store every day, and sometimes a few. I think nothing of hitting one market for their focaccia, another one where my flat-iron steaks are on sale, and then yet another because I know I can buy tarragon by the pound.
One day, in preparation of a big party I threw, I hit five stores in one day.
A personal record.
Costco for wild salmon, quinoa and asparagus.
New Seasons for fresh herbs, radicchio, a cup of soup for lunch and flowers for my table.
Whole Foods for their fresh chopped garlic in the produce section, olive oil and some Grand Central bread — and then a few other items for a salad.
Then there was Trader Joe’s for their pizza dough, St.Andre and Manchego cheeses, and caramel sauce.
And then finally I ran into QFC Market when I realized that I hadn’t picked up milk at the other four stores (what a dingbat).
What is inconceivable shopping to some is just a day in the trenches for me, and I love it.
Whenever I walk into a grocery store of my choosing I feel my blood pressure stabilize, my breathing become more even, and a smile begins to form.
Where others see hassles and obstacles, I see opportunity and pleasure just within reach.
As soon as I walk in, I start to daydream.
Should I make chicken wings with a spicy buttermilk marinade? Or pork tenderloins with a peach and shallot glaze? Or grilled flank steak with a chimichurri? Better yet, sauteed scallops with a grapefruit beurre blanc?
Many times I decide on a whim what to make for dinner each night, and it’s only when I see all the ingredients at my disposal that I’m ready to go forward.
As you can see, grocery shopping isn’t a errand to be crossed off my list, it’s a hobby I enjoy often.
Many people know that about me, but here’s something a lot of people don’t know.
I love Winco.
There, I said it.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t make everything from scratch. I don’t cook every night. And my shopping isn’t limited to the fancier, prettier in stores.
Nope, I love a bargain maybe even more than the next guy and when I really need to stock up, Winco is where I do it.
For those not familiar, Winco (or Win-Win, as pal Elona, a devote, refers to it) is a chain of stores (more specifically, as Beth pointed out, in CA, NV, OR, WA and ID) that are at the bottom of the food chain in grocery stores. This is not to say that they aren’t clean, or the food isn’t fresh, or any other slam.
It’s just that it’s about the most-bare bones, no-frills, and ginormous market out there, and I know loads of people who have never stepped into one — either because of its size, its location (they’re often in more far-flung, run-down sections) or its lack of amenities.
Indeed they are colossal behemoths with few helpers on hand and so badly lit that they look like a backdrop for a Tarantino fight scene.
Doesn’t it look like the before of a crime scene?
I won’t argue with any of that — and I’m always flustered when it comes to doing all my bagging in those terrible, handle-less brown bags.
Trust me on this — you’re going to want to bring your own bags.
But here’s the thing.
Winco rocks it for selection and prices, and if you can get over the lighting, ugly displays and bag-your-own groceries rule, it’s a must-do for the thrifty shopper who likes a great variety of goods in one place.
First off, pretty much anything you’d need (except for some specialty breads, fancier wines and select gourmet items) are for sale here, and you will save lots of greenbacks shopping here for all your basics.
I usually start with the bulk section; I buy all of my beans (navy, cannellini, black, French Le Puy, garbanzo and both yellow and red dal) here, and it’s about half the price of the other markets. So, if I buy enough to replenish my pantry with roughly 3 pounds of each dried bean, I’ve already saved about twenty dollars.
Yes, it’s that much less expensive.
Spices too are a slamming deal.
Once every other month or so I go there just to restock my spice cabinet.
They do a huge volume here so I know that the herbs and spices will always be fresh.
Turmeric for under three dollars a pound?
My curries — and my knees!– thank you (turmeric is all the rage now for its alleged anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties).
They have a gigantic grocery department which means almost any ethnic ingredient you could possibly need will be here, especially if it’s for an Asian or Latin dish.
It also means for me that I can find otherwise hard-to-find treats, too.
One of these sourdough pretzels and a wedge of sharp cheddar is heaven on earth.
Winco’s produce section is also very strong.
They may not have some of the more expensive and rarer things (like endive or radicchio) but they have 95% of what you’re likely to need at bargain basement prices.
How about this for a selection of yams and sweet potatoes?
At Costco I have to commit to a fifteen pound purchase of Yukon Golds, but at Winco I can buy as few or as many as I want (for half the price of some of the nicer markets in town).
And every single thing you’ll find here is a good deal cheaper than you’ll find elsewhere.
Under two dollars a pound for portabellos?
I’ve seen shallots for almost five dollars a pound around town, but not here.
Time to stock up on this too.
That makes my three pound bag of shallots about ten dollars cheaper than at the cute store with the great samples.
I always hit their olive bar, too.
They may not have all the fancier kinds they do elsewhere, but the Mama Lil’s Peppers here are three dollars a pound less than anywhere else, and so a big container saves me five smackeroos.
So much more goodness — and savings — abound.
There’s a decent seafood department and a huge meat section with every possible kind and cut.
You can save a lot in the dairy department too — cheeses, milk, yogurt — you name it.
Every morning my kids get a smoothie so buying a couple of these quart containers saves here me a couple more dollars.
I occasionally buy Naked Smoothies too so I can save three dollars by buying it here instead of at my neighborhood market.
Are you still on the fence about going?
Okay, I am resorting to the nuclear options.
Let’s talk candy.
Lots and lots of it.
Sure, you can find delicious things like this here
and about one hundred candy bars (including the more obscure ones) but that can be said of a lot of places.
But what about these in bulk?
Or Dilettante chocolates, or these Sixlets– color separated for the OCD in all of us?
There are row after row of dozens of bulk candy (everything from rock candy to Reese’s pieces) as well as an ever-changing selection of seasonally appropriate candy — all by the pound.
So if you’re a gummy person and you love holidays, boom.
But if Cadbury chocolate eggs are more your thing, it’s go time for you, too.
My family is obsessed with Tootsie Roll lollipops, pieces and rolls; it must be hereditary (sometime I will have to share a great story about my aunt and Tootsie Rolls during the 1940’s).
I come here and stock up, and because my family only likes certain flavors, I go through the humongous container and pick them out individually (leaving certain flavors for others who follow me on this road).
Haven’t been yet to the Win-Win?
Give it a try and tell me what you think.
But in the meantime, a big thank you to Winco.
Not only do I save about fifty dollars per shopping trip, but you’ve spared my family the disappointment of having to face another random sealed package of Tootsie Roll lollipops and the double-yuck of the chocolate flavored ones.